Homelessness is not a crime.
Why are we seeing more homeless tents?
The 9th District Court has ruled in Martin vs City of Boise that 2 city ordinances, disorderly conduct ordinance and camping ordinance, which criminalized sleeping outside on public property whether bare or with a blanket or other basic bedding violated the Eighth Amendment insofar as it imposed criminal sanctions against homeless individuals for sleeping outdoors, on public property when no alternative shelter was available.
“Any conduct at issue here is involuntary and inseparable from status – they are one in the same, given that human beings are biologically compelled to rest, whether by sitting, lying or sleeping. As a result, just as the state may not criminalize the state of being homeless in public places, the state may not criminalize that is an unavoidable consequence of being homeless – namely sitting, lying, or sleeping on the streets.”
“So long as there is a greater number of homeless individuals in a jurisdiction than the number of available beds in shelters, the jurisdiction cannot prosecute homeless individuals for involuntarily sitting, lying and sleeping in public. That is, as long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter.”
Redondo has ZERO shelter beds in our jurisdiction.
What has the city done to address homelessness so far?
Our Homeless Task Force was created in to guide City Council on collaborative ways to respond to challenges faced by the homeless population as well as those challenges faced by the residents, neighborhoods, businesses, schools, non-profits, churches, public safety agencies, and other service providers.
The condition of homelessness is a complex local & regional issue with many causes and contributing factors that need dialogue.
Fair share responsibility among local cities is needed to address shelter, feeding & services for the homeless population.
The significant demands on public safety resources made by the homeless population need to be reduced. In 2016, the RBPD received 3,284 transient-related calls for service or 5.55% of all the calls for service were transient related. In 2018, those numbers went up to 4,021 or 6.01% of all the calls.
Pathways out of homelessness need to be identified and made available. A key component of the Homeless Task Force recommendations was the need to contract with a coordinated outreach provider to ensure that all available services were made available to the homeless.
RBPD established a homeless detail, which includes one full-time Quality of Life Attorney, which also coordinates professional homeless service providers. RBPD began a 3-phase implementation:
- Get the needed social services to those experiencing homelessness within the city while standing up a core city/community/non-profit group of individuals to address the problem long term
- Realign the faith-based community goal of just sustaining the homeless individuals to moving them up and out of homelessness. The goal is to either find the rapid rehousing or permanent supportive housing. Many of our churches now act as a triage center, they know where the homeless sleep, what their needs are and how best to help. The churches coordinate with our navigator from Harbor Interfaith to get the person/family experiencing homeless off the street.
- Deal with those homeless individuals who are habitual offenders of either state or local enforceable ordinances. The police department works closely with the City Attorney’s “Quality of Life Prosecutor” to resolve these matters.
Now what are we going to do?
This year the City Attorney and the Police Chief are asking for money to do the following:
- Add duties & responsibilities to the Quality of Life Prosecutor and the Deputy City Prosecutor:
- Homeless defendants represent a significant portion of misdemeanor cases that the city prosecutor’s office handles. The county jail is a revolving door for these non-violent, lower level misdemeanor cases due to overcrowding. Jails do not address common issues associated with homelessness like substance abuse and mental health concerns.
- Furthermore, most defendants who are declared incompetent to stand trial are also homeless. These cases are referred directly to metropolitan court in DTLA. The DA’s office no longer covers these incompetency cases. As a result, we are currently overseeing defendants in metropolitan court. Many smaller jurisdictions like Redondo Beach waive their appearances due to the inability to physically make general court appearances in downtown. This presents dangers when the metropolitan court chooses to release in-custody, incompetent defendants to community-based centers for rehabilitation and there is no prosecutor to lodge an objection. Having a specially assigned prosecutor to oversee these incompetent defendants would ensure the City’s interest are represented at this special court.
- The Police Chief wants to fund an Acting Captain position to oversee the newly created and reorganized Special Operations Bureau tasked with addressing homeless issues in the City. In addition, the Police Chief is asking for overtime funds to be specifically used to deploy additional police officers to work in concert with the City Attorney’s office as they address homeless issues and concerns in the City.
- The City Council voted on 6/11/2019 to write an Amicus Brief to support the appeal of Martin vs City of Boise.
Just some thoughts:
More and more people are becoming house burdened meaning more than 50% of their income is being spent on housing. 51% of Redondo Beach residents rent their homes. Therefore more of us are in danger of becoming unable to pay for housing each time rents rise. With the Martin vs City of Boise ruling, the question is can we build enough shelter beds to accommodate the population being forced into homelessness? The South Bay saw a 6% increase in the homeless population. The Guardian reported these increases as “the latest sign of severe income inequality and a worsening housing crisis plaguing California.
There are now more than 36,000 homeless people in the city of LA, and nearly 59,000 across LA county, a 16% and 12% uptick respectively, according to an annual LA county report released on Tuesday.”
Do we keep trying to build shelter beds at taxpayer expense in order to accommodate the yearly increases in the homeless population?
Or do we get accustomed to people living on our sidewalks, parks, and beaches? While we may be able to address the mentally ill and criminals, what about the people simply unable to afford housing?
Or do we build more attainable housing? How is building the housing fairly distributed in our region? After all, one could argue that Redondo Beach has already done more than their fair share. With the Martin vs Boise case, what we have done so far, is not even a consideration to the court.
The people are already here and we must find them a place to sleep because the Boise case says so.
Officials from LA And Neighboring Cities Trade Barbs Over Homeless Issues
Last week I was a guest on KPCC’s AirTalk radio show. You can listen to it here